Kings' return to playoffs has been ‘out of this world' for fans


The clock struck zero on the Cinderella story that is the 2022-23 Sacramento Kings.

However, it wasn’t the strike of midnight that returned the carriage back into a pumpkin. Just the opposite.

It meant one thing: Playoff basketball is returning to Sacramento after the Kings beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-80 on Wednesday night at Moda Center in Portland to clinch their first postseason berth since the 2005-06 season.

"Out of this world," Kings fan Chuck Bryan said Monday night on what returning to the postseason means. 

Bryan and his wife, Sharon, have been season-ticket holders since 1985, when the Kings first came to town from Kansas City.

While the Bryans, like most fans, had hoped the Kings would clinch in Sacramento, they acknowledged before Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves that simply clinching would be surreal.

For the fans, the wait had been a long one. Sixteen seasons to be exact. 

And those 16 seasons included fighting off relocation to Virginia Beach, Anaheim and Seattle.

To fall into this “Basketball Hell,” as it had been referred to by a former player, Sacramento made their mistakes in the NBA Draft, had found little to no success attracting talent even after the state-of-the-art Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento had been built and had become a coaching turnstile.

Now, the Kings are boasting a potential – some might say likely – Coach of the Year candidate.

“Mike Brown in my book, we should put a statue of him out there in front," said longtime Kings fan Patti Anderson during Monday night’s game.

Anderson, known by Sacramento fans for her Kings onesie, has been coming to games since the 1980s and says this season has been incredibly emotional.

“It's close to a heart attack every night,” Anderson said. “I mean, I want so badly for us to win. I want it, but they want it."

For some on the team, the wait had been years in the making.

De’Aaron Fox, the Kings’ longest tenured player in his sixth season with the team, reached his first All-Star game this season and has a potential shot for an All-NBA team.

Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes are each in their fourth full season with the Kings; Barnes was a mid-season acquisition in 2018-19 so this is his fifth year in Sacramento.

For fans, it has been the perfect storm. A season to remember.

But when did the feeling start to set in that this season could be different?

"Oh, probably about seven or eight games into the season,” Chuck Bryan says. “The chemistry was going and they were playing together well." 

That eighth game just so happened to be Fox’s game-winner in Orlando and it came just over a week after the Kings had begun the season 0-4.

RELATED: Sabonis, Brown share heartfelt message to Kings fans after clinch

That win placed the Kings’ record at 3-5. Their next game, a closely contested loss to the Warriors, was followed up by a seven-game win streak -- their longest such win streak since 2004-05 -- and the rest was history.

That “history” might not be much to fans of teams who’ve “been there before” but for Kings fans, the wait has been long and the payoff has been special to say the least.

“You know,” Anderson said. “If my grandson came and told me 'Grandma we’re finally expecting a baby,' that might be second [to a Kings clinch]."

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